It started out like any other day. I worked in a small National Tea Grocery store. It was Friday and the store was pretty full. The time would fly when we were busy, and that was fine with me. Other than a “price check,” it was business as usual. Or so I thought.
I remember ringing up her head of lettuce. My fingers hit the keys: 49 cents. It was a time before scanners, when cashiers needed to know the prices.
“That was 39 cents.” The finely dressed woman snapped.
“Excuse me?” I said.
“You charged me 49 cents for the lettuce. It’s on sale for 39 cents.
“Oh, I’m sorry.” I quickly said. “I’ll take the 10 cents off right now.”
“You’re sorry. You’re SORRY? This isn’t the first time you’ve overcharged me. Every time I come in your line you overcharge me.”
By then I could feel my face getting warm. My apology had fallen on deaf ears. And not only that, now my mistake was being labeled intentional. Intentional and something I did on a regular basis.
But she wasn’t done yet. Not yet.
“Ma’am, if I always overcharge you, why do you come in my line?” Okay, I’ll admit, I didn’t have to ask, but I wanted to defend myself. I didn’t overcharge her or anyone else. And I didn’t want mud on my reputation.
“Why do I come in your line? Why do I come in YOUR LINE? Do you think I come in your line because I LIKE you?”
Clearly, that was not my train of thought.
“I come in your line because it’s the closest one to the door!” She took a breath and spat out, “Why don’t you go back to WHEREVER you’re from.”
And there it was. She did hate me. It had nothing to do with lettuce. It was a personal preference. I was the wrong person.
My face reddened and I felt like she had stomped all over me.
“Richard!” I yelled, as my voice cracked.
I didn’t have to recount the situation to the assistant manager. He had heard part of the conversation. Everyone in the store had heard. But just to be certain, she started repeating the whole scenario with seething anger.
Richard listened as good managers do, and finally answered. “Ma’am, she’s already apologized to you. She refunded the 10 cents. I’m sorry, but that doesn’t give you the right to talk to one of my employees that way.”
He stood up for me. She tried taking my dignity and he gave it back.
I never recall seeing her again. But honestly, I do remember being fearful after that. Afraid that somehow others thought like she did. That I was different because my ancestors were not born here.
And yet, isn’t this something that was even said about Jesus? Can anything good come out of Nazareth? (John 1:46).
If only we could know who people are when we look at them—not where they’re from or the color of their skin. We are human beings and we have so much in common, but some choose to look at the differences and let that influence how they treat a person.
We all have emotions, we all have hearts that can be bruised by the words and actions of others. We should pray that God lets us see others as he does.
The One who doesn’t look on the outward appearance. The One who sees our hearts.